Author Archives: Poster 1

Strolling the ‘hood, an ode?

By Nando

Richland Heights East. We show on a map as a collection of streets and structures within a square boundary. But . . . are we more, a distinct neighborhood differentiated by its people, even its pets? Hmm.

Obviously, not everyone in RHE is indoors petting their dogs instead of walking them about. Now, after weeks of transitioning from few walking to many walking . . .sans masks, even . . . dogs and people are all about . . . some pairs or trios exploring for the first time this unique ‘hood. It is good to do.

And at this time of year, walking the ‘hood whether walking the dog or the dog walking thee, the emergent greens of spring are so positive. Surely they ameliorate or even banish thoughts of virus, politics, or worse things?

The greens of spring and co-emergent fauna are background for outdoor exercisers, on nature’s presence and contributions to where we live . . . architecture and non-organic additions seemingly subordinated or enhanced by the products of this winter’s ample rains.

And in strolling about these spring mornings or evenings, with or without leash-felt demands, one is drawn at personal levels of consciousness to our immediate environment’s uniqueness and positiveness. There was no cookie cutter designer, and best of all there are no high rises . . . windowed cabinets for people on file?

Ah, the space . . . self-quarantined here among open spaces . . . wide streets and larger lots . . . wildlife in fur or feathers, scaly long-tailed lizards, or those with stubs, regenerating tails from encounters with adrenalized formerly indoor-only pets, and ground squirrels, and look . . . what was that?

Never have so many informed themselves on their Richland Heights East neighborhood. A mere collection of designated streets and structures, not really. Keep on walking. Its concomitant, the well informed, is the organic infrastructure of a living neighborhood.

May 2020

Third Haiku Submission

By Dennis M

Another Mural

Are pigs flying yet?
Let’s check hell’s temperature, yes!
Javalinas bike.

Here’s a new koan.
The sound of one hand washing
Is this what is heard?

Noisy city walk
Ambulance has no traffic.
Some good comes with bad

April 2020

Pandemic Writings Continued

Dennis

Quiet city walk
Hear backyard children laughter.
Love’s heart goes to them.

Quiet in front yard
Emerge from life’s cholla nest.
New doves fledge today.

April 2020

Haiku Thursday

By Dennis

Quiet city walk
Delightful gifts come in time.
Orange trees blossom now.

Porch Pirate?

Quiet city walk
White truck loops in neighborhood.
Tough time to be thief.

Drive on Left? Walk on Right.

Quiet city walk
All met walking on wrong side.
What is right or wrong?

Noisy city walk
Military jets slash our sky.
Very loud freedom?

Mural

Quiet city walk
Whales hover over desert.
Are pigs flying yet?

Haiku

Want to learn something?
Plural form is this easy.
Haiku need(s) no “s”!

April 2020

Dennis

During the COVID-19 pandemic, LAH volunteers kept in touch with clients who were sheltering at home by phone. Vicki, the leader of the Senior Writing Group, was one of the callers. Here is an email she sent on March 24, 2020 . . .

One of my people to call was Dennis DeFreitas. I hadn’t seen him in well over  a year and his phone number no longer worked. I tried email, but nothing. So I left a note on his door. His son called me last night to say that Dennis had died of cancer in September. His son said that he and Dennis’ daughter were very appreciative of the things that LAH did for Dennis. He said Dennis talked about us. Also his daughter was at the social when the senior writers read from our book. I think she read his story.

He had not been active with LAH for a couple of years, but I spent a lot of time with him from 2012 thru 2016. He and I started with the Writing Group on the same day. He was a regular for over 3 years. His stories are in the book we published. I drove him twice a week for physical therapy for about a year. I took him out to the Desert Museum to see the Raptor Show and almost killed him with the long walk and the heat. The last time I saw him was during a social at the church — he rode his three wheeled motor bike over. He also rode it to the Botanical Gardens and to Randolph Park for our picnic.

Dennis hated December — too many people he loved had died in December.  I’m glad he died in September — not glad he died, just glad it happened in September.

Vicki

Mesquite Maintenance, Mistletoe, and more . . .

By Nando

This winter’s two severe chills had caused an early and seemingly more complete denuding of the area’s mesquite trees, with the native species yielding more leaves to the ground’s carpeting, while the Chilean long-thorn variety, though also giving up leaves to wind and chill, displayed some green-leaved resistance. The loss of leaves revealed the evergreen presence of the mesquite’s nemesis, mistletoe.

The parasitic clumps were of varying sizes and at heights not easily reached by homeowners with rudimentary tools. Add well-aged joints, vintage-grade alacrity, and spouse intolerance of ladder climbing, and it became inevitable that delays would result, and help would be needed.

Now the early Southern Arizona spring was stimulating the Mesquite’s new leaf growth as well as giving impetus to the mistletoe’s renewing its parasitic prominence and threat to its hosts.

The native trees still had not begun showing new leaves though the advantage of being able to clearly see the clumps in the leafless trees had been mostly lost for the leafier Chilean variety. Though harder to spot, the Chileans showed significantly more parasites than the native species.

The mistletoe looked pretty much the same in either tree. It formed clumps of stick like leaves, all emanating from a bulbous, distorted and swollen, usually slender branch. The branch itself, at the source of the parasite, seemed to sprout additional branches as if to provide the mistletoe centrality and additional resource. How hospitable.

Scanning the tree itself also showed that the mistletoe grew on the bark of larger branches. These branches were, in our single study, at least 3 inches in diameter with bark that was creased, fissured, perhaps facilitating retention of mistletoe “seeds”.

Single stalks, large clumps, small clumps, and nascent pre-clumps were removed. A tree lopper, freshly sharpened and lubricated, with its ten-foot reach was essential. A ladder and some tree climbing by a youthful forty-year old was also necessary to remove the highest and often larger clumps. Single stalks, usually growing from larger branches, could be brushed aside.

The mistletoe-sprouting branches were trimmed several inches below each clump’s bulbous base. A look at these branches showed the distortion that occurred and the transformation of the interior of the branch where the parasite’s activity changed the interior pulp to an abnormal white, softish swelling.

We hope to know by next year or so if removing the branch and its growth, rather than just removing the stalks was enough to stop it re-emerging. We already knew that next year or later there would surely be other clumps or single stalks to remove, thanks to bird droppings and beak scrapings. Hmm, no mistletoe was found on other trees.

March 2020

on death

By Kat

the spirit rises
far beyond
yet lingers still
mid those
left behind

a knife to the heart
is our loss
forever imbedded in
what we call
back of the mind

brought forward
in sadness
now and again
softened to sweet memories
by reflection and time

our loss, the spirit’s gain
the spirit rises
to whatever is next
having gained a rung
on the ladder of time

and we remain.

February 2020

Out of Practice – But Never for Reading

By Leslie

It has been quite a while since I participated in the Writing Group. And, frankly, I am out of practice. Ideas do not spring into my mind on which I can write. So, I will just have to fill you in on the small, and not so small, things that add up to a life lived as fully as possible.

Friends and family are, of course, the center of my existence. But should I distinguish between the two? It has been said, “(Good) friends are the family you choose”! Unfortunately, I have lost my two longest, dearest friends within the last six months. One, my son’s Godmother, to cancer, and the second (most recently) to the complications of diabetes.

I met my son’s Godmother on the first day of medical school and we remained dear friends through the ups and downs of life – both private and in medicine. The second woman, a friend from St Louis, was my major source of “book reviews” (aside from the New York Times and other publications, of course). We had endless telephone conversations discussing books – each recommending books to the other. How much more interesting than discussing one’s ill health!

Of course, I am so blessed to have my dearest friend, with whom I live – my husband. We, too, share so much – including a love of books. Not a night goes by when we do not read together. As literacy, specifically reading, is the key to all education, my husband, Bill, continues to tutor elementary school children in reading. And I, I remain an inveterate editor – and co-edit a monthly pediatric journal. We have some marvelously talented contributors, some leaders in their fields – but unfortunately that does not mean that they are marvelously talented writers. It is both a joy and privilege – and at times a challenge – to edit their work.

Each of us belongs to book discussion groups and, of course, avidly read on our own. I highly recommend book discussion groups to you. There are so many from which to choose – whether specialized, like mystery or contemporary – or general, such as ours.

So now, my friends, my hand tires, my thoughts ebb – and I leave you, but this time, hopefully, for just two weeks.

February 2020

Monsoon Moods, Tucson Yesterday and Today

By Nando

He squatted, looking north, resting his back on a thick mesquite trunk along the arroyo’s south bank, the single shot .22 boy’s rifle across his knees. It was late afternoon, past the time cottontails or jackrabbits would be seen lying on the shady side of chollas or palos verdes. Earlier the few he had seen scampered or bounded away at his approach. Now, the shadows were long and developing contrasts among the canyons and foothills of the Santa Catalinas.

A slight breeze shifted then accelerated enough to raise dust off the arroyo’s wide sandy channel. The fluffy dust aloft and the sun’s slanting rays blended into a pastel translucency illuminating and shadowing the mountainside’s ridges. The air at thunderhead height was clear and contrasted with the towering clouds’ vibrant whites and varied grays. As he watched, the white cloud tops rose, the gray bottoms seeming to spread in place as the air eased into a yellow-green tint.

Along the dry El Rillito creek bed the cooling winds were intermittent, stuttering before the approaching front. A dust devil had “dervished” and expired. Ahead of the nearing clouds, the dusty wind accelerated, now carrying teasing hints of moisture and an occasional drop amid aridity and dust. Within minutes, the winds carried the moist creosote aroma that only first raindrops impacting desert-dry plants and soil could generate. He wrapped his T-shirt around the 22s short metal barrel.

He breathed deeply, his anticipation now heightened by the delicious aroma’s promise. The lightning show was next expected, with thunder reverberating and echo-rolling around the valley’s stark mountainous rims. He most wished for the first huge monsoon raindrops that hurt your face if you looked up, and to feel the exciting direct cracks of nearby lightning strikes and their bouncing, rolling thunder.

His experience, as limited as his pre-teen life, nonetheless told him this gusting activity would likely pause, then resume with vigor, or entirely pass. He checked the gun’s safety, got up and began trotting south towards a nearby ocotillo and adobe casita to try to have the advantage of both staying dry and being near the mountain sounds and heavier rain he hoped would soon follow.

He found shelter under the shack’s metal porch, squatting again, hoping to hear the unique percussion of hard rain on its corrugated iron surface. Facing the Catalinas he waited, each inhaled breath nearly intoxicating. Then it started . . . the thuds of pelting rain approaching, then the sudden and sustained crescendo on the metal roof . . . More than an hour later, day now darkening, with only occasional drops now falling, he put on his slightly damp shirt and began his long walk south to his home south of Old Main.

That long-ago storm . . . violent with wind, lightning, cloudbursts, and glorious tumultuous bank-to-bank hissing and occasional roaring of the Rillito, was still a strong memory, that of a participant who mildly regretted not having been able to capture more of the storm’s magnificence. He had settled for deep delicious breaths of damp desert air.

He returned more than half-a century later, driving mostly via paved roads and over a short rutted desert trail to the now weary and less isolated old casita, its adobe walls crumbled, cracked and fissured. Its corrugated roof, absent all but one wall’s support, was a rust streaked lean-to and rusty where nails had pulled loose. Unchanged were the gusts, felt through his open driver’s side window, of a monsoon on the way . . .

He returned to the pavement and proceeded northward past the arroyo, up into the lower foothills to an isolated spot. He removed the obstructive Handicapped tag from his car’s mirror so he could better see the sky and mountains. The whir of all the electric windows lowering was modulated somewhat by the wind and sand gently striking his parked, northwest-facing SUV. He waited, watching the horizon, this approaching storm seeming less a wonder. He pondered the growth of the city upwards into the hills, with civilization’s additions giving them depth and contrast perceivable even without sunset lighting from the west.

The thunder this evening sounded softer, muted perhaps by the stucco softness of the structures which now contributed to defining the foothills. There was no rolling, just an occasional thunder echo, also dampened. He wondered how much of the sharpness of close thunder was attenuated by his aged eardrums and how much by civilization’s acoustics on the once empty hills. This monsoon flurry passed as a dusty freshet weakly giving rise to the “eau de damp earth and creosote.”

The clouds west of his location thinned and opened as he watched. New light slanted through their openings and over the mountains. A broad rainbow formed across the foothills, both ends anchored in misty panoramas of tile roofs and pastel walls. He continued to watch the fading illumination’s shifting shades and the lights of the foothill homes as they engaged darkness.

He raised his windows, ending his return, and started his car. Its automatic high-tech beams reflecting off moist mesquites, he turned south, downwards towards the ever-sprawling city’s gentle mantle of cloud-reflected city lights. He soon stopped at a Trader Joe’s on Campbell near the Rillito. He bought a frozen rabbit.

August 2019

in an instant

By Kat

the scream came from far off. it came again, close this time. another from somewhere over to my right. silence for a moment; then they came swooping in. four of them, one following the other, slid silently across the road in front of me.

i had been watching all summer, waiting, somewhat impatiently, for this moment. four baby hawks, wings finally big enough to hold them aloft, slipped by silently and separated to land in four palm trees framed by my front window. oh such a joyous sight to behold!

following the every move of the quartet’s parents had become a favorite pastime of anyone and everyone at the pool. we shared stories of what we’d observed the day before or an hour ago, as the pair flew off to find food and returned to nourish their chirping offspring.

the babies sat deeply snug in their nest high up in a tall palm tree, only an occasional bit of fluff visible to us on the ground. and we waited. and we waited. and waited. then suddenly, here, framed in my own window, the scene so anticipated unfolded before my eyes.

the beauty in their wings, the freedom of their flight, was delightful, as they swooped from palm tree to palm tree, playing games of tag with one another. from the direction of the pool came a louder, more urgent scream – mother hawk calling her young to dinner. all four, strung high across the sky, responded to her call and, in a instant, were gone.

August 2019